Fighting systemic violence

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John Passant discusses the recent tragedies of Orlando and the Jo Cox murder and the systemic violence behind these and other violent incidents.

WE LIVE in a violent world.

In Orlando, a wife bashing, angry, self-hating, possibly gay man killed 49 mainly gay Latino people, yelling "God is the greatest".

In the UK, Thomas Mair, a Nazi, killed Labor parliamentarian Jo Cox, yelling "Britain first". Britain First is a neo-Nazi group.

On being charged and asked his name Mair replied

“My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain."  

Both did so alongside a background of Western state violence — against others outside and against the other within. For example, the George W Bush led invasion of Iraq has killed up to 1,400,000 Iraqis.

None of the alleged war criminals associated with this criminal action, including Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard, have ever been charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity. Such "justice" is reserved for African dictators who buck the orders of powerful imperialist countries.

Nobel peace prize winner Barack Obama has killed thousands of innocents with his drone bombs. He too has escaped and will escape The Hague.

Australia’s rulers have been consistent supporters of U.S. invasions, including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. This is not because our leaders are lap dogs of the U.S. but because it is in the interests of our capitalist class to do so. One reason for that is it gives support to our rulers’ imperialist expansion — an imperialism that dominates the region.

Australian imperialism is not benign. It interferes in the region. It supports the genocide in West Papua. It turns a blind eye to the destruction of democracy in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The Australian sponsored state violence against refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru numbs us to the violence against state identified enemies within. We unite against often brown skinned Muslim refugees and in doing that, unite with our own oppressors and exploiters.

It is not just refugees. It is now nine years since John Howard launched the racist Northern Territory Intervention. The basic card experiment on Indigenous people has now expanded the economic brutality and viciousness into poor white areas.

The state continues to steal Aboriginal kids. It continues to drive Indigenous Australians off their land. The genocide continues. For our rulers, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are the eternal enemy within.  

At various times there have been other enemies within too. The Chinese, the Irish, German Australians, Jews and today, of course, Muslims. So we see an open Islamophobia from the hard right within government, the Murdoch media and Reclaim Australiafor the fascists in the United Patriots Front, while Prime Minister Turnbull cloaks his Islamophobia in inclusiveness and mealy-mouthed words about protecting gays and lesbians.

These weasel words come from a Prime Minister who has capitulated to the homophobes in his own party to hold a referendum on equal love instead of amending the law like parliamentarians should do. This plebiscite will unleash the reactionary homophobic right and in that environment, it is possible there will be violent attacks on gays and lesbians, just as the Government demonisation of Muslims unleashes abuse and attacks on them. Inclusiveness would deliver same sex marriage immediately after the election.

Workplaces too can be violent. About 30 workers a year in the building industry are killed at work, with many more seriously injured. Without strong unions able to some extent to police safety on site, deaths and serious injuries will only increase. That is what happened when the Australian Building and Construction Commission was last in operation and using its repressive anti-building union powers. 

The family, the basic unit for the cheap reproduction of labour for capital, is a site of violence. So far this year, according to women's discrimination organisation, Destroy the Joint, the number of women killed by their partners or former partners stands at 33.

This violence against women, against building workers, against refugees, against Aborigines and Torres Strait slanders is systemic. It can flow directly from key social relations within capitalism — the family and concepts of ownership and lesser value of women as part of engendering social acceptance of their unpaid role as the bearers and carers of the next generation of workers. It can flow directly from the "need" to make more profit, for example, in the building industry.

It can also be part of an ideological campaign driven by the state and/or bosses to distract attention away from the wider economic problems or the deep alienation that is work in capitalist society. Far better for capital that we workers see the enemy as, for example, asylum seekers and refugees than capital itself.  

Could there be an Orlando or political assassination in Australia? The state driven hate and violence doesn’t rule it out; it encourages it. There are numerous fascist groups here beavering away while the government fans Islamophobia and focuses on Muslims, not fascists.

The violence we witness, whether it be the bosses’ wars, or Aboriginal deaths in custody, or asylum seekers killed or raped, or women murdered by their partners, or workers dying on building sites, is systemic. The only long term solution is a new society in which love, not profit, is the basis of real human relations and production is organised democratically to satisfy human need. 

John Passant is a former assistant commissioner of the Australian Tax Office. Read more by John on his website en PassantYou can also follow him on Twitter @JohnPassant.

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